We left Hoi An by bus, traveling for four hours through the Hai Van pass. This affords some beautiful views of the Vietnamese coast and we stopped for a photo op. We made our way diligently to the city of Hue, where the ancient capital of Vietnam lay, now in ruins. The city of Hue itself is relatively unimpressive, although I will admit that I explored it a little less than some of the other cities. However, no sooner did we get to Hue then we were off on another motorbike tour, this time, through the countryside. We went through rice paddies, over bridges, through the woods, to ancient ruins, up gorgeous hills where an American bunker lay hidden, and finally to the oldest temple in Vietnam.
It was all beautiful and it’s a lot of fun riding on the back of the motorbikes although it can get scary in the tight traffic. Since I have all of the luck, as we were driving through the busiest traffic circle, I heard a crunching noise in our motorbike and we came to a screeching result. My driver pulled over to the side of the road and I was forced to go on without him. Luckily, I don’t have any photographic evidence of being sandwiched between two Vietnames men on a tiny motorbike.
That night we went out for dinner where I discovered 60-cent bottles of Huda Beer, a Vietnamese treasure. Then next morning I decided for the first time of the trip to sleep in and I regret nothing. After eating a leisurely lunch, we boarded another train, this time for 14 hours. The train of course was late, and the accommodations were less than spectacular. The air conditioning was less than powerful, only blowing a lukewarm but much appreciated stream out of ¼ of the vent. Fortunately, it was the quarter right next to my head. Unfortunately, I didn’t fit in the bed and I couldn’t sleep a wink.
Fortunately, once we arrived in Hanoi, I was able to sleep on the bus ride to Halong Bay. After sleeping some more once we arrived, I was ready for the day and good thing too! Halong Bay was my most anticipated location in Vietnam and it was not a disappointment. We took a surprisingly luxurious boat cruise out through the rugged karsts emerging from the sea. Each of the rock formations shot high in to the air and were speckled and strung with greenery, all against a day of gorgeous blue sky and the mesmerizing ocean. Words can’t do it justice, but pictures can come close.
We stopped by a cave that was INCREDIBLY tacky. They decided to light every interesting crevice of the cave with neon blue, purple, pink and green. It was offensive. The rest of the day was spent walking through the non-descript city, although the beach was heavily populated. We went out for Italian food because the locals of Halong Bay don’t like tourists so you have to go touristy restaurants. I got to watch Djokovic and Federer square off at Wimbledon during dinner so I was a happy camper. It was nice to have a night and recharge before reaching the hustle and bustle of Hanoi.